Friday, December 23, 2005

2005 Ufological Top 10 - #6 Nick Redfern's "Body Snatchers in the Desert"

Nick Redfern's book on Roswell, Body Snatchers in the Desert, did a couple of things that I didn't think were possible. First, it made Roswell the topic of discussion within ufology again, something that I though was impossible. Second, whatever else might be said about Nick's theories (and I don't buy them, and have told Nick so, in many very pleasant conversations), they created a ufological "hell has frozen over" moment. In response to Nick's "cover up of dastardly government experiments" theory, the Big Three of Roswellism - Stan Friedman, Kevin Randle, and Karl Pflock, all of whom have promoted, for years now, alternative theories as to what happened (or did not happen) in 1947 - came together in a "perfect storm" of criticism (most of it well founded, in my opinion). Of course, Stan still thinks Karl and Kevin are wrong, and Karl still thinks that Stan and Kevin are wrong, and Kevin still thinks that Karl and Stan are wrong - but the one thing they can all agree on is that Nick is definitely wrong.

The fact that Nick was probably wrong is almost irrelevant. The alacrity and vehemence with which the "Roswell establishment" jumped on his claims was stunning (some people actually did so without having read the book - I critiqued Nick's book too, but at least I had read it first). Most amusing was the criticism of his anonymous sources, and the claims that he had been the subject of a disinformation campaign. With respect, there should be a rule when it comes to Roswellism, namely that someone who has ever used "anonymous sources" - Stan with the MJ-12 documents, Karl with his mysterious Aztec witness, and Kevin with "The Colonel" found in Case: MJ-12, all pop to mind - should be very careful about criticizing someone else who has made use of anonymous sources, as Nick did (unlike with the MJ-12 documents, Nick actually knows who his sources were, but chose to keep them anonymous).

Still, Nick's book demonstrated that the Roswell case is far from dead. It was the topic of discussion amongst UFO cognoscenti for several weeks, and continues to be debated by die-hards as the year winds down. People generally seemed to respond to it according to their pre-disposed beliefs. If you believe Roswell was an ET crash, or another, less dastardly, government project (i.e., Mogul), then you were almost guaranteed to be against Nick's theories. After all, the people who buy either the ET or Mogul explanations have invested a lot of time, effort, emotion, and, in some cases, money, in their pet theory. It would take a herculean effort for most of them to shift their position. On the other side of the ledger are those (many of them from "across the Pond") who are willing to believe just about anything about Roswell, so long as it has nothing to do with aliens, and so long as it casts the United States government in an even worse light. For them, Nick's theory was made to order, regardless of its merits. It is a weird (and sad) world where folks not only find it easier to believe that the U.S. government would conduct the kind of experiments described in Body Snatchers in the Desert, but actually prefer that this would be the case, as it would confirm their pre-existing belief that the United States is an Evil Empire, and always has been.

Many others saw in Body Snatchers in the Desert a new theory that might solve the Roswell case once and for all. They are fed up with Roswell, and just want to put it in the past.

Alas, no such luck. Rather than providing a unifiying answer, Nick has simply put forward another flawed theory. It has been added to the mix, and has found its own small group of die-heard adherents. But it didn't tell us what really happened in New Mexico all those years ago. I don't think anything ever will - at least not to the satisfaction of everyone in that dwindling group of people who still care.

Paul Kimball


Stuart said...

Nice overview Paul although you'll never guess what! - I disagree with your conclusions.

Nevertheless, you possibly even understate the impact the book had and I think your observations about folk fighting their corners from their already pre-held positions is accurate although sad at the same time. In many ways it was as much a revelation about the absurdity of Man in terms of the reactions as much as a chronicle of what happened in the New Mexico desert 60 years ago.

Paul Kimball said...

Nick sent this note to me, which he said I could post:

Hi Paul

Just read your piece on Body Snatchers at your Blog. Although we differ on Roswell, I was at least pleased that you put the hardly-ever-discussed angle in about those researchers criticizing people (i.e. me) who use anonymous sources when they themselves use anonymous sources or anonymously supplied data.

I would stress that despite what some have said (or what some have assumed, might be a better term), not all my sources are anonymous. Barker and Salter certainly aren't because they are their real names. Unless, as I said on UFO Updates once, someone is going around providing faked credit cards, faked driving licenses and faked tax records for a group of old people, just with the intent of showing them to me and not being even sure at the time that I was going to do anything with the story.

What Barker and Salter have chosen to do, however (unlike a lot of other alleged whistleblowers who then go public and love the limelight and actually court it) is to remain largely in the shadows and avoid the UFO community after revealing what they knew. Now, people can of course question the motives of people who reveal a story and then largely vanish or stay hidden, and I understand that - which is one reason why I put the story out there to see where it leads.

One area where Barker and Salter differ from other alleged whistleblowers too is in the fact that in the time I got to know them, their stories were not elaborated upon after the interviews were completed. By that, I mean this: as you know from the UFO subject, so many alleged whistleblowers add to their tales as time progresses to keep them in the ufological public eye and on the lecture circuit etc.

You may not agree with the data of Barker and Salter, but they do not fit the mold of bogus whistleblowers who keep adding to their tales to tantalize people, to keep us hanging on a string, to keep returning from the shadows to reveal a bit more of this or a bit more of that, and ensuring their place within the UFO "scene", etc.

Instead, they said what they had to say and then it was the equivalent of - "Print it or not; the choice is yours." And in the period since I interviewed the Black Widow in 2001, I have never had any of them come to me and say something like "Oh, I want to tell you something else too that I forgot," etc.

Even though this is just my personal opinion, I never got the impression that they were pushing me to publish. Which raises the question of what would motivate these people to say such things if not true? If it's not true then there are 2 possibilities (as far as I can tell): and those possibilities are private disinformation or official disinformation.

I cannot accept the former because if you want to make the Government look bad, why reveal a bogus story to a small audience that is unlikely to be picked up on by the mainstream media and that is therefore unlikely to reach a massive audience? It defies the point of doing it in the first place. In other words, outside of the UFO community (largely) no one would get to hear their private disinfo (if that is what it was).

And if official disinformation, then that I have to disagree with too because it implies that something of significance still happened at Roswell. And as you rightly noted, Roswell wasn't in the ufological eye to any great extent anymore. So if something of significance happened at Roswell that had to be hidden, why would someone in the official world arrange for these people to come forward and stir the pot and put the "R" word in the public and ufological eye again? Again, this makes no sense to risk making Roswell an event that everyone focuses their attention on again.

For the record, other sources - none anonymous - have come forward since publication of the book talking about the same basic scenario, and that I intend publishing all of this eventually.

And although on some areas I have some agreement with you (particularly with respect to the fact that as I have consistently said too, that even I agree that we are unlikely ever to resolve the case to everyone's satisfaction because all the files are missing and nearly everyone who was there is dead), the one area where I completely disagree with you, however, is your comment about some people wanting to believe the theory because it makes the USA look bad.

Maybe you have heard something along those lines; however, I can state with absolute 100 per cent certainty that such an opinion or comment has never been made to me.

In fact, a lot of people who disagree with the theory (including non-US people) have said to me that one of the prime reasons for disbelieving the data is because they could not believe that such crimes could be committed on US soil. Okay, it's 9.15 on friday night and we're off to the pub to get loaded.

Feel free to publish the above as a reply if you want.

Best for Christmas,

Paul Kimball said...

Hmm... perhaps I wasn't supposed to add that part about "getting loaded." :-)

I would disagree with Nick re: the anti-Americanism. I have certainly noticed it, both as an underlying current, and in specific e-mails that I have received. Still, he is no doubt correct that there are also plenty of people who would still find it difficult to believe that their government would do something like this.

As usual, however, Nick and I agree to disagree without rancour.